Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump – who now enters his fifth consecutive month atop the polls – took his empty bravado and anti-Muslim rhetoric to its natural conclusion: He’d bring back waterboarding and other forms of “strong interrogation.” Nobody seems to have told him that they don’t work.
In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Trump said his plan to stop terrorism was simple. First, he would block and deport all Syrian refugees.
“It could be the great Trojan Horse of all time. When I look at the [immigration] line, I see all strong powerful men. And I see very few women, and I see very few children. There’s something strange going on. And if you look at what’s happening in Europe, a lot of bad things are happening in Europe.”
Then he would re-authorize the use of torture.
“We have to be strong. You know, they don’t use waterboarding over there, they use chopping off people’s heads, they use drowning people.
“I would bring it back, I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they do to us. I would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation.”
After its heavy use during George Bush’s time in office, President Obama moved to ban the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation,” and waterboarding specifically, after testimony from both human rights groups and military experts said it was cruel and ineffective. During a landmark report on its use during the Bush years, congressional investigators found that waterboarding led to zero reliable intel and warned that its use helped stoke anti-American sentiments in the Middle East.
Trump seems to disagree with the experts, and ignore morality altogether. As part of Trump’s vision to “Make America Great Again,” he wants to reinvigorate its shameful past use of torture.
Trump’s description of waterboarding as “peanuts,” is interesting given the fact that he’s never – as far as we know – undergone it. Those who have experienced it don’t seem to be so blasé. Famously, author Christopher Hitchens volunteered to undergo waterboarding after years of defending its use. He came out of the ordeal a changed man and penned a deeply moving article titled simply, “Believe Me, It’s Torture.”
You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered.
It’s highly unlikely that Trump would ever have the courage to undergo the mere “peanuts” he so callously committed to sponsoring during his presidency. He is, and always has been, a showman. A bloviating windbag of self-conscious arrogance with all the lack of self-awareness one would expect from a rich kid who thinks he clawed his way to the top. Would he put his money where his mouth is? Highly doubtful. So, instead, I’ll leave him with the conclusions Mr. Hitchens drew after his experience.
One used to be told—and surely with truth—that the lethal fanatics of al-Qaeda were schooled to lie, and instructed to claim that they had been tortured and maltreated whether they had been tortured and maltreated or not. Did we notice what a frontier we had crossed when we admitted and even proclaimed that their stories might in fact be true? I had only a very slight encounter on that frontier, but I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words “waterboard” and “American” could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath.
Feature image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr